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John Muir Trail solo hike planning and preparation (United States of America)

Don’t believe the hype. I’m usually critical of super-popular hiking trails. Whether they are really short ones, like the Path of the Gods at the Amalfi Coast or hyper long ones like the Pacific Crest Trail or Appalachian Trail – it is hard to live up to the hype. I had the same feeling about the John Muir Trail (JMT) for a while. But then I started reading John Muir’s ‘Yosemite’ and was hooked – now I had to start planning for my own solo thru-hike of the John Muir Trail. So here’s my process of planning and preparing for my John Muir Trail solo hike.

For readability, I chopped my post up in different stages:

  1. Settle on the idea
  2. Validate
  3. Settle on a date
  4. Lock-in the trip
  5. Create a rough day planning
  6. Creating a packing list
  7. Budget
  8. Extra

Before we start: John Muir Trail (JMT)

John Muir Trail. Photo by Ohio State University
John Muir Trail. Photo by Ohio State University

The John Muir Trail (JMT) passes through what many consider to be the finest mountain scenery in the United States. This is a land of peaks up to 4250 meters, of lakes in the thousands, and of canyons and granite cliffs. The John Muir Trail is also a land blessed with the mildest, sunniest climate of any major mountain range in the world.

The trail is 340 kilometers long, has close to 14,5 kilometers elevation gain and runs (mostly in conjunction with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)) from Yosemite Valley to Mt Whitney, in California. Winding through the famed Sierra Nevada, the JMT visits some of the crown jewels of America’s park system: Yosemite, John Muir and Ansel Adams Wildernesses, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.

But it’s true legend is in the legend, John Muir. Known as “John of the Mountains” and “Father of the National Parks”, was an influential Scottish-American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher, glaciologist, and early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States. His letters, essays, and books describing his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada, have been read by millions (including me). His activism has helped to preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and many other wilderness areas.

John Muir Trail facts and figures by
John Muir Trail facts and figures by The Backpacker Lifelist

Step 1: settle on the idea for my John Muir Trail (JMT) solo hike.

The 340 kilometers somewhere between July-September (because of the snow – see my year planning for hikes), that’s pretty much the key challenge. And ideally a sub-10-day thru-hike.

Step 2: validate my John Muir Trail solo hike plans.

As I always do, I read/watch pretty much everything I can get my hands on. YouTube videos, official websites, blogs from other hikers, etcetera. Some sources I used (and very much appreciated):

That left me validating/working on these questions:

  • How to get there. I’m quite used to complex planning (e.g. the Arctic Circle Trail wasn’t super easy), but getting to the John Muir Trail is rather complex.
  • The permits. 

Step 3: settle on a date for the John Muir Trail solo hike.

July to September is usually the best period of time.

Step 4: lock-in the John Muir Trail (JMT) trip.

[To be added later]

Step 5: create a rough day planning for my John Muir Trail solo hike.

  • Day 1: traveling to the US.
  • Day 2: traveling to the trail.
  • Hiking Day 1 – Yosemite Valley to Vogelsang Trail
  • Hiking Day 2 – Vogelsang to Trinity Lakes
  • Hiking Day 3 – Trinity Lakes to Lake Virginia
  • Hiking Day 4 – Lake Virginia to Lake Italy trail intersection
  • Hiking Day 5 – Lake Italy Trail Intersection to Evolution Lake
  • Hiking Day 6 – Evolution Lake to Upper Paradise Lake
  • Hiking Day 7 – Upper Paradise Lake to Arrowhead Lake
  • Hiking Day 8 – Arrowhead Lake to Tyndall Frog Ponds
  • Hiking Day 9 – Tyndall Frog Ponds to Mount Whitney
  • Day 12: Day of rest.
  • Day 13: Day of rest, travel away from the trail.
  • Day 14: Travel home.

Fallback options

Especially since my experience at the Iceland Laugavegur trail and it’s fast-changing weather, I promised myself to make a backup planning.

[To be added later]

Step 6: creating a packing list for the John Muir Trail solo hike.

[To be added later]

Budget for my John Muir Trail solo hike.

  • Transportation
    X
  • Accommodation
    • X
  • Food
    • X
  •  Extras
    • Permit

Total cost estimate – 

Extra

  • [To be added later]

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